Yeah, some things have changed for Jon Reep since he won Season 5 of NBC's Last Comic Standing.
"I grew three inches, I've got two new teeth in the back of my head and I can fly," he says.
"Other than that, not much."
So the 35-year-old can't really fly, but where he is now (home: Studio City, Calif.) is a ways away from where he's been (hometown: Hickory, N.C.). And daily life following his September victory means lots of travel, gigging at bigger venues and living the joy of working less but making more money. Oh, and getting used to people recognizing him in public.
"People tend to know my face, but they don't know what it's from, necessarily," he says. "And so I get this look from people, like they're lookin' at me, but they're trying to play it off like they're not really lookin' at me."
When they do try to place him, Reep just has to mess with them.
"[I'll say] "Oh, yeah, dude, I did a lot of adult films in the '90s. That's probably what you know me from.' And they're like, "What?!'"
I hate that guy
Although Reep was already selling out comedy clubs, his familiarity quotient shot up a few notches in 2003. As the redheaded hillbilly in Dodge's "Hemi guy" ad campaign, he became known by millions for his catchphrase, "That thing gotta Hemi?"
"[Dodge] paid me to go the Daytona 500 three years in a row," he says today. "They paid me to go to car shows. ... I signed women's boobies, you know. That's when I realized there is a god."
Reep walked away from the gig with his very own 2006 Dodge Ram quad cab yes, with a Hemi. But he's now selling it on eBay, largely because he's traveling so much, he's not around to enjoy it. Part of the proceeds will be donated to the American Diabetes Association, a charity he chose because his wife's brother has diabetes.
"Those people, they deserve chocolate," he says. "Every Christmas, I'll be hanging out with them her side of the family. I'll be over there, eating all kinds of Hershey's Kisses, and I can tell [her brother is] lookin' at me like, "I hate that guy.'"
Of course, Reep's more used to such visceral, immediate feedback than most of us. In fact, he really appreciates it that's why stand-up's his first and strongest love. He likes knowing on the spot if something worked.
At a recent performance in Denver, Reep says, "There were people just doubled over with their hands up, like telling me to stop. I could tell people were hurting from laughing. I like to hurt people with laughter. I like them to laugh so hard, they felt like they went and did a thousand crunches."
He works hard at his shows, too: Viewers are likely to see him dance across the stage, or to get down on the floor and pretend to be a water sprinkler.
MySpace with a mullet
Reep himself likes to laugh. It's not uncommon to see him crack up at his own jokes while performing. He enjoys watching other comics, like those he calls the "old-school guys": Steve Martin, Dana Carvey, Bill Cosby.
When it comes down to it though, there's one thing that makes him laugh the hardest.
"I like hidden-camera shows," he says. "Because that's real reality. 'Cause a reality show, it's not really "reality' when they know there's a camera there."
He particularly likes seeing people "get the crap scared out of them."
"Maybe I'm sick in the head that way. ... I guess that's how you are after being a comedian for 10 or 15 years, and typical comedy doesn't make you laugh as much. I mean, I still laugh at good comedy, but not like I do real stuff."
Having starred in commercials, sitcoms, Comedy Central shows and even a movie coming out this April (Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay) Reep's now doing more of his own "real stuff."
The big-time guy is returning to his roots with smalltownnation.com, his new Web site. He says it's an international social networking community "kind of like MySpace, if My-Space could grow a mullet."
When seeing Reep in person, viewers should expect a small-town celebration party of sorts with lots of laughter and lots of physical, fun comedy. Because, as Reep says, some of the funniest things happen in small towns.
And because deep down, Jon Reep will always be a small-town guy. Something to keep in mind when he jokes that his favorite comic today is "me."